Zimbabwe ex-leader Robert Mugabe spent last days ‘detained’ in a Singapore hospital for treatment

Dewey Sim

Singapore’s Gleneagles Hospital, just off the island nation’s main shopping district Orchard Road, is thought to be where deposed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe spent his last days.

The 95-year-old had been treated in Singapore for an undisclosed illness from April till his death on Friday at 10.40am.

A van from funeral services provider Singapore Casket was seen near the hospital’s mortuary, accompanied by a man in a dark suit with a Zimbabwe flag pinned to his lapel, broadsheet The Straits Times reported.

Mugabe’s body was subsequently brought to the Singapore Casket building where the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Singapore’s Charge d’Affaires Claudius Dennis Farai Nhema was seen entering the premises. He left just after 6pm and did not reply to reporters’ questions.

In a statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its condolences over Mugabe’s passing and said it was working with the embassy on arrangements to fly his body home.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe dies in Singapore hospital aged 95

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe following a

military coup in November 2017, had issued a statement last month saying Mugabe remained “detained at a hospital in Singapore” for medical treatment.

“Unlike in the past when the former president would require just about a month for this, his physicians this time around determined that he be kept under observation for much longer from April this year when he left for his latest routine check-up,” the statement said.

On Friday, Mnangagwa confirmed Mugabe’s death on Twitter, feting him as someone who had dedicated his life to the nation and its people.

Mugabe had been spotted before at the 258-bed premium hospital and its sister facility, Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Robert Mugabe at Singapore's Gleneagles Hospital. Photo: AFP

According to Gleneagles’ website, its suite is priced at S$7,588 a night. Single rooms go for S$668 a night, while its four-bed room costs S$259.

The hospital was where Mugabe was first seen in public after the military takeover that ended his authoritarian 37-year regime on December 15, 2017.

Mugabe was a frequent visitor to Singapore, and his stay there during his last days underscored his long connection with the Lion City.

Mugabe, who was Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader, had visited Singapore some eight years ago to receive treatment for his eye problems, including cataract surgery.

When he was later seen at Gleneagles Hospital in 2014, his spokesman said he was on a “routine eye check-up following a recent procedure”.

How Grace Mugabe’s ambitions fractured her husband’s rule

His periodic travels to Singapore have drawn flak from those at home, who said he had allowed Zimbabwe’s once-proud health care system to collapse while seeking medical attention abroad.

Medical treatments aside, Mugabe also visited the city state to see his daughter, Bona, who studied there.

Singaporean media reported that she graduated with a master’s of science in management from the Management Development Institute of Singapore-University of Wales.

Bona has been quoted as saying her parents had always encouraged her to further her studies and “aim for the top”.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, also had her fair share of affinity with the Lion City – thanks to her lavish shopping habits.

Grace Mugabe. Photo: AFP

Reports noted that Grace, nicknamed “Gucci Grace” and “The First Shopper”, once spent £8,700 (US$10,695) on a handbag in Singapore.

Political analysts have often likened Mugabe to another political leader who led his country to independence from British rule – Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew. But unlike Lee – who died in 2015 at the age of 91 – Mugabe did little to improve economic conditions and instead presided over years of unemployment, hyperinflation, poverty and displacement.

Meanwhile, Mugabe’s family also boasts close ties with Hong Kong, though recent events seemed to colour the relationship as controversial.

Hong Kong’s controversial connection with Zimbabwe’s first couple

In 2009, Grace was accused of punching a newspaper photographer after he took pictures of her shopping on Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.

More recently, in 2015, the Mugabes were also part of a lawsuit involving a three-storey villa at JC Castle along Shan Tong Road.

Mugabe claimed the villa belonged to the government of Zimbabwe, and that Bona, who was living there while studying at City University, was “borrowing” it.

Land records showed, however, that a Taiwanese-born South African citizen named Hsieh Ping-sung had paid HK$40 million (US$5.1 million) for it in June 2008.

Mugabe’s government sued Hsieh in 2014 to claim ownership of the villa, which was sold this January at a loss, for HK$34 million. The new buyer was not identified.

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